Last week was the hottest week ever recorded, with temperatures reaching levels never captured on a human-made device. The temperature last week came on the heels of the announcement that June 2023 was the hottest June ever, according to data sourced by the World Meteorological Organisation or WMO.
Last week, the average global temperature soared to a new height on Monday, reaching 17.01 degrees Celsius.
On Tuesday, Monday’s record was surpassed with a recorded temperature of 17.18 degrees Celsius. Remarkably, the global temperature remained at this record-breaking level throughout Wednesday.
But on Thursday, that record was broken as temperatures reached 17.23 degrees Celsius, according to the National Center for Environmental Prediction or NCEP.
In Egypt, the state official weather forecaster said the North African country experienced a scorching heatwave with temperatures soaring above 37.7 degrees Celsius.
Prof. Christopher Hewitt, the Director of Climate Services at WMO, said the rise in temperature “occurred at the onset of the development of El Niño, which is expected to further fuel the heat both on land and in the oceans and lead to more extreme temperatures and marine heatwaves.”
Scientists say this will not be changing soon; Zeke Hausfather, researcher at Berkeley Earth, said, "Unfortunately, it promises to only be the first in a series of new records set this year as increasing emissions and greenhouse gases coupled with a growing El Nino event push temperatures to new highs."
What is an El Nino event?
A Spanish term that means “the Christ Child”, El Niño is a climate pattern that explains the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. The event is named that way because it usually peaks in December.
El Niño happens when the trade winds, which are strong winds that blow from east to west across the Pacific Ocean, weaken. When the trade winds weaken, warm water from the western Pacific Ocean flows back east. This warm water then builds up in the eastern Pacific Ocean, which changes the weather patterns worldwide.
El Niño can cause a lot of different weather changes. For example, it can cause more rain in some places and less rain in other places. It can also cause more storms and more flooding.
While El Niño is a natural climate pattern, it is thought to be affected by climate change, causing the earth’s atmosphere to warm, leading to more frequent and intense El Niño events.
Africa is not left out; according to Dr Baddour, “The North Atlantic is one of the key drivers of extreme weather. With the warming of the Atlantic, there is an increasing likelihood of more hurricanes and tropical cyclones. North Atlantic sea surface temperature is associated with heavy rain or drought in West Africa.”
A danger foreseen
Scientists warn that the consequences will be dire as the earth continues to heat up due to climate-depleting human activities.
Some of the consequences are already here; Mexican authorities said extreme weather conditions were responsible for the death of over 100 people and the rescue of many more in the last two weeks of June.
Consequences of extreme weather include floods, famine, wildfires, and even diseases.
These conditions can damage infrastructure like roads, bridges, and power lines. In an agric-dependent continent like Africa, these extreme weather conditions can lead to crop losses and, by extension, food shortages.
Experts at WMO say there is a “90% probability of the El Niño event continuing during the second half of 2023”, and with that, the “likelihood of breaking temperature records and triggering more extreme heat in many parts of the world and in the ocean.”
Prof. Petteri Taalas, the Secretary-General of WMO, said, “The declaration of an El Niño by WMO is the signal to governments around the world to mobilise preparations to limit the impacts on our health, ecosystems and economies,” he said. “Early warnings and anticipatory action of extreme weather events associated with this major climate phenomenon are vital to save lives and livelihoods.”
In the long run, governments need to invest in adaptation measures designed to help communities cope with the impacts of climate change. These measures can include building seawalls to protect coastal communities from flooding or planting trees to help mitigate the effects of heat waves.
Also, the government needs to retool its early warning system and make it more efficient. These systems can include weather forecasting and systems for communicating warnings to the public.